Small Business Economics

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 191–205 | Cite as

Contextual ambidexterity in SMEs: the roles of internal and external rivalry

  • Dirk De ClercqEmail author
  • Narongsak Thongpapanl
  • Dimo Dimov


This article seeks to extend research on small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and ambidexterity by investigating contingency factors that influence the relationship between contextual ambidexterity and SME performance. Acknowledging the importance of internal knowledge flows in leveraging ambidexterity, it offers unique insights into how internal and external rivalry conditions influence performance outcomes related to an ambidextrous posture. Using a sample of Canadian-based SMEs, the study shows that the contextual ambidexterity–performance relationship is suppressed at higher levels of internal rivalry and amplified at higher levels of external rivalry. The findings suggest that developing an ambidextrous posture should not be an end by itself, and they point to the need for SMEs to understand how the features of their internal and external environments affect the performance consequences of such posture.


Ambidexterity Knowledge Rivalry Contingencies SMEs 

JEL Classifications

M10 M19 L26 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk De Clercq
    • 1
    Email author
  • Narongsak Thongpapanl
    • 1
  • Dimo Dimov
    • 2
  1. 1.Goodman School of BusinessBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  2. 2.School of ManagementUniversity of BathBathUK

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